I’ve met a lot of young women lately that are working in the service industry and feel like they need to somehow explain to me why they are a waitress, etc. “I’ve applied everywhere. I have my degree, you know!” “This isn’t my career. It’s just something I’m doing for now.” My heart sinks at the fact that they feel they need to justify a job that is just as critical, if not more, than an office job. But, I get it.
I was fortunate enough to begin my career on Madison Avenue in NYC, the dream spot for an up and coming public relations girl. I relished in the fact that I worked right across from Grand Central Station and everything was exactly as how I envisioned it to be when I got out of school. Then, my mom and my stepdad were diagnosed with cancer a week apart from each other, my sister passed away, and my perfect little world exploded. A few months later, I made the decision to move back to Florida where my mom was being treated for her cancer. Unfortunately, my step dad lost his battle.
My first month back in Florida was spent at a job well below what I was being paid in NYC, and much different from what I was doing at a PR research firm. I made it work, though, just happy I could be in Florida again. Then, I was sexually harassed by the owner of the company, and found myself out of a job as I refused to work under those circumstances.
My heart was in Miami, but jobs in my field for native English speakers were not. I did a lot of yoga, meditation and overall soul-searching and decided I had to move back to Miami, even if I didn’t have another job yet. When I announced this to my parents, particularly my dad, there was a bit of a freak out. He said I better find something to carry me over until I find a job in my field.
I contacted the guy who gave me my first job as a VIP hostess at a five-star restaurant in Miami, and explained my situation. He immediately offered me a job as a hostess at a hotel he was working at in South Beach.
So, there I went from an NYC research project manager on Madison Avenue to a hostess on South Beach. The transition was a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. I fudged to my friends and told them I was handling events at the hotel, embarrassed that I was a lowly hostess. I quickly defended myself to guests who struck up conversations with me at hotel, explaining to them that this was only a temporary thing until I found a job in South Florida.I even came under some pretty harsh criticism from guests and coworkers about what I was doing with my experience as a hostess on the beach. Despite all of this, though, I stuck to my guns and worked at the hotel while interviewing for jobs.
Three weeks later, I was called in for an interview at some sports company a little north of Miami. I didn’t prepare much for the interview, writing it off as some moms and pops business. Much to my surprise as I Googled it the day before my interview, I found out it was actually an international sports nutrition company whose products were sold at GNC.WTF. It’s an understatement to say nerves were all over the place as I entered the interview with the President, Vice President and Director of Marketing for the company.
As they grilled me over my social media skills (which I had very little of at the time), I convinced them that I could do absolutely everything the job required. I promised them I would meet their audience growth goals and create an entirely new strategy. They made a deal with me that if I delivered within a month, I would get a substantial raise and keep my job. If I didn’t, I was out.
I quit my hostess job that afternoon, and immediately began looking up what social media for business was exactly and what audience growth meant. I had no clue. I was a project manager at a research firm running stats on media that companies had already put out there, absolutely NOTHING to do with social media.
After staying up until all hours of the night learning absolutely everything I could about social media, and intensely studying what other brands did, and answering every single question that came in at all hours...I met the goals they set within three weeks. I received my raise, an incredible bonus and was promoted. I suddenly found something I was great at.
Point? There’s no need to apologize for being in the service industry while looking for other jobs, and there’s actually a ton of things to learn during your off-time. Here’s some valuable takeaways I received from my brief stint as a hostess:
Buy A Yoga Mat
My dad was furious, to say the least, that I gave up an amazing job to move back to Miami. He gave me $50 and wished me luck. I went to the store and immediately bought a yoga mat with $20 of it, and spent the rest on food. That yoga mat was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Everyday I would do yoga and meditate on where I wanted my life to go. When I felt like I wasn’t necessarily where I expected to be at 24, I would hit the yoga mat and remind myself that it’s what inside that matters.
Trust The Process
There’s a reason I had to take some time for myself. I was completely burnt out after my time in NYC and finally had time while hostessing to do the things I needed to do like form solid friendships and focus on family and my social life a little more. God was working in me as I manned the hostess station every night, teaching me patience, humility and grace.
It’s true that sometimes you have to go back to the beginning in order to move forward. Returning to the very first job I had in college forced me to reflect on the years I had lived since then. I started thinking about what was important to me as a 19 year-old, and what I had envisioned for my life then. I quickly realized that the job in NYC actually wasn’t providing most of the things on my 19 year-old dream list of things I would do and have as a professional adult. This allowed me to redirect my path and focus in on jobs, opportunities and friendships that were more aligned with what I envisioned for myself.
Surprisingly enough, my time as a statistical researcher in NYC did not provide much face-to-face interaction with others. While I still had remnants of my people skills, there were quickly fading with each late night report that kept me from meeting friends or calling family. Being a hostess again allowed me to sharpen my people skills, and learn how to deal with people of ALL different personality types. This skill is invaluable in social media!
There’s a Chopra meditation I do that encourages you to disconnect from whatever you identify yourself with. One particular part says, “What happens if you identify yourself as the VP of Marketing and then you’re fired? Then who are you?” I was totally doing this with my job in NYC. I lived for the fact that I was the youngest at my firm, and working in the dream location right out of college. I passed out of my business cards like they were candy, urging people to look at the fact that I was already a project manager at 23. Needless to say, I had a huge awakening when I found myself seating people at the beach. I suddenly had to find value in other parts of myself, not just my job title.
The most successful people on earth are the ones that face jobs, circumstances that they don’t necessarily want and turn that time into a lesson, rather than a burden. That hostessing job led me to my first social media job which eventually led me to my absolute dream job. Sometimes you need to restart in life, realize what’s important and redirect your path. All of the successful people are doing it ;)
- Marji J. Sherman